The decision of the Union Cabinet on Tuesday to define adolescents in the Child and Adolescent Labour (Prohibition) Act may cause more implementation problems, rather than providing a solution, feel child activists.
The cases related to child labour are dealt under the Juvenile Justice (JJ) Act, which does not have any definition for adolescents.
"It helps child traffickers because of the new contraction created in the two laws," said Raj Mangal Prasad of NGO Pratidhi.The Juvenile Justice Act says all those below the age of 18 are children. There is a specific clause in the JJ Act which provides for prosecution of those involved in child labour and rehabilitation of child labourers.
But, in cases related to adolescents, prosecuting someone under the JJ Act will become difficult as it does not identify this category of children.
As per the Cabinet decision, those in the age group of 14-18 years cannot be employed in hazardous industries listed under a schedule. The Cabinet had prohibited child labour till the age of 14.
Prasad, who was head of south Delhi's child welfare committee, said there was a need to harmonise the two laws for better implementation and instead of adolescents, a sub-category of children could be created to make application of JJ Act easy.
India has ratified United Nations Convention on Child Rights in 1991 which defines humans below age of 18 as children. As a consequence of it, JJ Act was amended in 2000 to bring it at par with the UN convention.
The recently approved Protection of Children against Sexual Offices has one definition of children -- 18 years. The draft National Child Policy also defines child as somebody below the age of 18.
The contradiction does not end here.
Two laws governing employability - the Factories Act and the Minimum Wages Act --- have different definition for adolescents.
The Factories Act defines children in the 15 to 19 age group as adolescents whereas Minimum Wages Act says those between the ages of 14 to 18 should be considered adolescents.
Not just laws, there is no consistency in definition of adolescents in government policies.
The exposure draft of the national youth policy says those between the ages of 16 and 21 are adolescents whereas the national health policy term 11 to 19 years age of adolescence.